Let’s not get caught in a roundabout. The Crew Motorfest is unabashedly a Forza Horizon clone. Given that The Crew and The Crew 2 both had a middling reception at launch, it’s understandable that Ubisoft’s Ivory Tower studio decided to recalibrate the franchise so that it emulates its Turn 10 Studios competitor. To its credit, The Crew Motorfest does a satisfactory job creating a colorful open world based on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu with a festival that has a wide variety of dynamic events and challenges. However, the open world is neither as refined nor as expansive as Forza Horizon’s, and the The Crew franchise loses a part of its identity in the transition.
The Crew Motorfest’s similarities to Forza Horizon become apparent within the first ten minutes of entering its world. You are introduced to a lively festival full of car enthusiasts with a host and other NPCs who try to speak with hype and freshness. After a quick set of tutorials where you get a chance to sample the different racing types throughout the game, you’ll find yourself at the central hub with various playlist events peppered about the map. You can also create an avatar, though the character customization options for body types, facial features, and clothing are disappointingly bare.
A healthy chunk of the game focuses on playlists that feature events strung together by a particular theme, such as a manufacturer like Porsche, a style of racing like Japanese street racing, or a series of locations like Hawaiian landmarks. Each playlist is suitably distinct, with a lot of effort having gone into the music, assets, and introductory trailers. You’ll be forced to use the loaned vehicle that’s been paired with each event on the first runthrough, though you’ll be able to use your own on subsequent attempts. This is ostensibly meant to ensure that you won’t need to worry about not owning the right vehicle to start an event and also forces you to listen to the playlist’s narrator explain details about the loaned vehicle. But it would have been better if the option to choose your own car was available from the start.
A racing triple threat
The options for car handling aren’t as robust as Forza Horizon’s, but the game falls much more in line with other arcade racing sims like Need for Speed. While turning around corners felt floaty at first, I was able to fiddle around with some of the options to ease the problem. If you raise the difficulty by turning off some of the assists, you’ll get a slight bonus to the amount of XP and credits you'll receive for completing events. This will make it easier to build the currency needed to expand your vehicle collection, which can include ATVs, motorcycles, and numerous supercars.
Playing through the first few playlists will reward you with free vehicles that include a speedboat and a plane, giving you alternative means of traversal. Most of the game is still tailored to cars of course, but boats and planes help to mix things up. Even better, you can flip between these three vehicle types on the fly while you’re exploring the island. Usually, the most efficient way to reach the next event is to soar into the air as a plane and then transform back into a car over the event marker, falling hundreds of feet before landing like an anvil.
Clouds on the horizon
Exploration of the island is a middle-of-the-road experience. The game’s interpretation of O’ahu is vibrant and more focused than the awkwardly condensed map of the continental United States in The Crew 2. And the terrain, be it the black sand beaches, the rocky plateaus, or the muddy tropical jungles, is varied enough that races still feel fresh by the midgame.
But the island is rather small compared to other open-world racers and the variety of side activities, or "feats" as the game calls them, needs improvement. While the slalom challenges are enjoyable, the photo op challenges are especially irritating, since many of them require you to take a photo at a particular time of day in the game. In addition, there are many objectives that ask you to gather collectibles that are marked all over the island, but they’re rudimentary and not particularly interesting.
The narration during a race is bothersome too. Enjoying a nice ride or trying to focus on a series of tricky turns is frequently interrupted by talking. As much as I want to know about Hawaiian history during an event, doing so when I’m being harried by seven AI opponents may not be the best time for learning. Even the narrator for the Hawaiian playlist said once that he was going to stay silent so I could focus on the track, and I couldn’t have agreed more. Then during free roam, the in-game AI assistant called CARA would chime in constantly. It took a while to figure out how to disable it without muting event narrators at the same time, but I was able to push CARA to the PS5 controller speaker and silence it there.
Worse, crossplay is not available for playlists and open exploration, and is restricted to the two multiplayer modes, Grand Race and Demolition Derby. This could have been a real boon, both for forming parties between friends on different platforms and for giving the game an advantage over Forza Horizon by including PlayStation players into crossplay. Also, providing more benefits and options for assembling an actual crew would have given the game a way to separate itself. That said, the 28-player Grand Race and the battle royale Demolition Derby are fun diversions, though these live competitions are among the very few options for multiplayer.
Where the rubber meets the road
The Crew Motorfest is an acceptable reproduction of the Forza Horizon concept. If you focus on the thematic playlists and roam the colorful open world listening to the radio, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of the game. There’s enough content here to last you well over 20 hours between events and exploration. However, apart from the ability to change vehicle types on the fly, the game is unfortunately short on original ideas. The limited multiplayer, lack of compelling side activities, and restricted crossplay also hold The Crew Motorfest back from passing the finish line ahead of the curve.
This review is based on a PS5 code provided by the publisher. The Crew Motorfest is available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S.
The Crew Motorfest
- Beautiful Hawaiian open world
- Event playlists have a lot of flavor
- Planes, boats, and motorcycles add variety
- Solid soundtrack
- Limited multiplayer options and crossplay
- Side activities in free roam are largely uninteresting
- Loss of identity for The Crew franchise
Nick Tan posted a new article, The Crew Motorfest Review: Edge of the Horizon
Man, this sounds like a competent-at-best game that's going to tank for Ubisoft yet again.